Neal promotes social studies for state tests

Marcia Neal

Colorado Board of Education member Marcia Neal hopes Colorado legislators won’t dismiss the addition of social studies to state standardized testing as too expensive.

The price tag of having five subject areas to test each year dissuaded the state from including social studies on the Colorado Student Assessment Program test in the 1990s, Neal said. Legislators passed House Bill 1313 in 1993, which in part called for the creation of CSAP testing in math, science, reading, writing, geography and history, but the bill was later amended to exclude history and geography because of funding concerns.

The omission came after Neal, a former Grand Junction High School history teacher, and other social studies teachers in the state already had worked on a committee to create a potential set of social studies standards for the test.

Neal has a soft spot for social studies given her background, but that’s not the only reason she wants a future replacement for CSAP to include the subject.

“It’s important to be a good citizen,” she said, something she said social studies teaches. The state Board of Education approved frameworks for a new standardized test earlier this month. Having a social studies test was among the suggestions for the assessment, which has not been written, along with testing nine grades instead of eight and having students take the test online if feasible.

The idea of having social studies in addition to tests for math, science, reading and writing was proposed by members of the Colorado Economic Council, a group of business people. The council approached the state board a few months ago, Neal said, and told board members Colorado was doing students “a disservice” by excluding social studies from standardized testing.

Adding a social studies test received a warm welcome from the Board of Education and the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, Neal said, but she’s worried it won’t pass muster because of its costs. Although the state board had the power to propose frameworks for the test, the Legislature can bypass a proposal for the test based on insufficient funds.

“There are still some people out there, including legislators, that don’t think it’s a good idea,” Neal said.

The test is scheduled for full implementation in 2014, with sections of the test being introduced in 2012 and 2013. But finding money to pay for a new test has been a struggle.

“I wouldn’t say we won’t have it in 2014, but I won’t say we will,” Neal said.


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